New Delhi: Only once in a while, in movies that are being made these days, one can chance upon a story that has immense potential and depth. But then comes the tragic twist – the god awful histrionics washes it all away.
‘Dam999’ is one such phenomenon. After the rather disappointing acting turns one away exasperated, not many will sit down to consider the potential the story actually has.
The basic story is incredibly simple. The entire plot revolves around a colonial dam built in Kerala 100 years ago. The figure 999 has a special significance; it represents the 999-year lease agreement on the control of Mullai Periyar Dam to the Government of Tamilnadu made during erstwhile British colonial rule. While the older dam can barely keep the water in, a new dam gets constructed by the evil mayor of the town. He makes it with cheap concrete, bribes the architect and scares everyone to silence about the potential dangers of the new dam. Till one fine day on September 9th, 1999, torrential rain and a massive earthquake makes the new dam spring leaks and eventually collapse and the older damn cannot save the town either. Everything gets swept away leaving behind some bitter memories and piles of corpses, as the town brushes itself up to go on with life.
And in the face of one of the largest man-made and nature induced calamities – thrives some love stories and some power games. Starring Ashish Vidyarthi, Joshua Fredric Smith, Rajit Kapur, Vinay Rai, Vimala Raman, Linda Arsenio, Megha Burman, Jaala Pickering and Jineeth Rath – the human drama thrives on this motley crew of actors headed by veterans – Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajat Kapur.
To cut a long story short – Vinay, a mariner (Vinay Rai) has always been in love with Meera (Vimala Raman). Shankaran (Rajat Kapur), Vinay’s father, had taken Meera under his wing when her parents drowned. Shankaran knows the ayurvedas and has over years perfected the art of astrology, healing and premonitions. He tries matching the birth charts of the childhood sweethearts but realises that their stars are not compatible and their union can only result in a disaster. Meera stoically accepts her fate and moves on. Vinay, always the disbeliever, storms off in anger and in a turn of events gets married to Sandra (Linda Arsenio). They have a son – Sam (Jineeth Rath) who is diabetic and to heal him, Vinay returns to Shankaran. Sandra is a journalist and a documentary film maker, who has no time for her husband and son. The couple part ways with Sam coming with his father to India. Along with Vinay comes Frederick Brown (Joshua Fredric Smith) – Vinay’s ship’s Captain and his Pakistani wife Raziya (Megha Burman). Sandra soon follows her son and husband to India. Fredirick’s father was the mayor of the town before Durai (Ashish Vidyarthi), his brother-in-law snatched the reigns. While Frederick has no interests in becoming a mayor – he cannot forget his sister Maria (Jaala Pickering) who is married to the despotic tyrant.
While Vinay tries to come to terms with his love for Meera and the return of his wife, all that Raziya wants is a child to complete her happiness. Sandra on the other hand is trying to win her husband back and takes the ultimate decision to make the last documentary of her career. Threatened by Durai, Frederick takes it upon himself to rescue his invalid sister from the clutches of the evil politician. And in all this chaos – Shankaran struggles with the inevitable of a disaster befalling them all.
With the basics of the chemistry laid out – the results are rather mechanical – Vinay and Meera never get together despite him choosing her over Sandra. Raziya has a child and Maria is rescued, Durai is killed in the dam disaster and so is Sankaran. Not all stories have a happy ending.
Rather disappointingly simple – but the real twist lies in the underlying philosophy of the movie. Vinay at one point in the movie talks about how he and Meera are like dams themselves – taking the pressure of emotions for the others. This philosophy does not extend to all characters, however. The only thing that does is the internal framework of the 9 Rasas – explained best by the ancient text – the Natyashastra and Vakyapadiya.
The 9 Rasas are the 9 emotions of man, denoted by 9 colours – the Beebhatsa Rasa (aversion, disgust; denoted by blue - Duria), Roudra Rasa anger, fury; denoted by red - Vinay), Veer Rasa (the heroic; denoted by orange - Sandra), Hasya Rasa (laughter; denoted by pure white - Frederick), Sringara Rasa (love; denoted by green - Raziya), Karuna Rasa (compassion, kindness; denoted by grey - Meera), Bhayanak Rasa (fear, terror; denoted by black - Maria), Adbhuta Rasa (the mesmerizing; denoted by yellow - Sam) and the Shantha Rasa (peace, denoted by white - Shankaran).
In the Indian philosophy of life, performance and grammar, all the 9 Rasas must function separately or in groups to induce the emotions and the sentiments. When all the rasas and thus all emotions can be surpassed – the 9th and the final rasa- Shantha can manifest.
All the actors are seen wearing the specific colours of their rasas – but this extremely thought provoking play of the rasas does not manifest in the story or the acting skills. It can only be understood in retrospect.
According to Indian philosophy – only those who can surpass the 8 rasas can achieve perfect peace – which is ideally personified by Sankaran – who accepts his death as the obvious as he prays in the face of calamity. However – his bout of anger at Vinay and Meera’s renewed love – does not make one feel that he has surpassed the wrath or the fury yet. The characters are also not permanent figures for the rasas they symbolise – they flit in and out of colour as the story progresses. Well, perhaps that is life. But the ultimate ‘shantha rasa’ is not achieved by anyone in the course of things. Meera, who miraculously escapes death and goes on to become a nun, is perhaps the only one walking towards the white.
Directed by Sohan Roy, the film is based on the award winning short documentary ‘DAMs - The Lethal Water Bombs’. The movie hit the screens in 3D and 2D – a brave attempt – but the 3D effects are not stunning and are rather useless. A lot could have been done with the effects, as is the case with the acting skills. Even Rajat Kapur disappoints heavily in scenes – Ashish Vidyarthi is the only character in his elements.
Excellent use of the ‘Rasa Theory’ but what a waste since the audience does not seem to get it at all. A simple, easy, and a wonderful story – but marred by the lack of 3D effects and the acting.